A Virtues Project card blinked at me from its glass holder on my desk:
I phoned Linda Kavelin Popov, co-creator of the Virtues Project, the other day. I had a message for her.
“Oh Amy! What a surprise! A message? From whom?”
“It’s from me, Linda.”
I could sense the sideways grin forming on her beautiful face. Then, she said, “Okay…what’s the message?” Her tone confirmed her impish smile was in place.
“I love you.”
Our laughter blended in shared celebration. Both of us delight in knowing this is the freedom we can afford one another! I had no need for embarrassment, explanation or “slurpiness”. I had just read an article she had written and wanted to re-confirm my appreciation and respect for her positive contribution to the world.
The Virtues Project exists around the globe, at a grass roots level, customized for specific needs of culture, creed and custom.
At one point, in 1997, Linda hired me as the Communications Director for the Project. As Linda circumnavigated the globe giving presentations and training sessions to people of various nations, I received and responded to communications that were ever growing.
I had found my niche. I loved everything about the Virtues Project, including starting every meeting with a Virtues Pick. One of the Cards would be chosen and each of us would talk for a minute or so about the meaning of that Virtue in our lives. Sometimes it was a chance to acknowledge an act of virtue and other times it was a reminder for us to put that virtue into practice.
We were in the midst of building a global route for Linda’s next major tour. We knew Oprah was going to call which meant that Linda would have to contort into another time demand, but we had to forge ahead.
Linda was in Australia the day the call came in. I happened to be the one who answered the phone. “No, Linda’s not here, she’s in Australia. Would you like the phone number of the hotel where she’s staying?” I said to one of Oprah’s producers.
“Well, it may not be a good idea to call now considering time zones, etc.”
“I know she’d rather be awakened than miss the call,” I said, not wanting to grovel.
“When is she heading back to Canada?”
“Not for another two weeks.”
“We’ll have to arrange another date. We need her here next week. We have a time we could bring her in, but if she’s in Australia…”
Obviously this was before Skype, Live Video or any other internet capabilities.
“Maybe she could manage to whip out from Australia and and then return.”
“No…we’ll have to call again. Thank you.”
I had just let the opportunity of a lifetime slip away. I emailed Linda full of regret. She assured me that if it’s meant to be, we’d have another chance when she’s available.
Though I appreciated her response, Linda seemed somewhat preoccupied – almost uncaring about her chance to be on the Oprah Show.
I made a mental note to ask about that when she returned and continued arranging dates for various countries. The major tour was finally coming together.
One morning, after Linda’s return from Australia, she came to the office looking as tired as the day she arrived home. “I haven’t been able to catch that second wind that comes after a couple of day’s rest,” she said. She spent less time at the office.
We thought it was a bad case of the flu. “That airplane air is the culprit,” the office staff concluded.
A few days later, at our morning meeting, Linda explained that her doctor had confirmed she was suffering from Post Polio Syndrome. The medical profession was just discovering the people who survived polio as children were being revisited with its symptoms 50 years later. The doctor laid clear, firm boundaries:
- The stress in her life had to be eliminated.
- Her travel had to stop.
- She had to develop a routine of rest and relaxation.
Consequently, she informed us, the office would be shut down. Her husband and she would look after administration.
She confirmed she would keep the Virtues Project alive. It would continue in some way that would simplify her life.
We, her staff of three, were mortified. It was far more than the loss of a job…it was the loss of contributing to a project we loved. It was the loss of contributing to a process that significantly changed attitudes and relationships within families, communities and cultures.
“What does Post Polio Syndrome do, Linda?” I asked.
“Apparently throughout my life I’ve been using tons of energy. If you and I were walking uphill, I would keep pace with you – no problem. What we wouldn’t know is that I was using four times more energy to go up that hill. After 50 years of that, the body contains a diminished energy supply.”
The Virtue Card “Perseverance” personifies the determination we saw in Linda. The lines on the reverse side of the card could be her voice:
- I have a strong sense of purpose.
- I have the will to overcome obstacles.
- I remain committed to what I want to do.
- I am determined to finish what I start.
- I am trustworthy in my relationships.
- I do what it takes to stay the course.
Linda has persevered. She did a fifteen minute segment on the Oprah Show.
With more time available, she used her intuitive powers, determined how to protect herself while maintaining the Virtues Project, and wrote a book about it. She wrote “A Pace of Grace”, outlining the principles she has uses to keep the vitality of both the Project and her health.
As Ms. Fitzgerald said, “Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
Linda certainly hasn’t.
I love her for that!